NZ Rugby World - - Jack Links -

In Novem­ber 2009 the All Blacks were grind­ing through their sec­ond test that year against Italy. The first, in June, had been dire – one of the worst tests in re­cent mem­ory.

The re­turn game in Mi­lan wasn’t much bet­ter, and there was a pe­riod in the mid­dle of the game re­duced to farce.

The set-piece col­lapsed and re­set 12 times with a young Wy­att Crock­ett, mak­ing his way in test foot­ball, re­peat­edly pe­nalised.

It was a bap­tism of fire for the All Blacks loose­head and he was even­tu­ally sub­sti­tuted to spare him from the ordeal.

But his con­fi­dence should never have been shaken like that – his rep­u­ta­tion was wrongly dam­aged as Aus­tralian ref­eree Stu­art Dick­in­son had al­lowed Ital­ian tight­head Martin Cas­tro­gio­vani to op­er­ate out­side the rules.

World Rugby ref­eree boss Paddy O’Brien was so up­set by the per­for­mance that he flew to Lon­don to make a public apol­ogy.

O’Brien said Dick­in­son had been “to­tally wrong”.

“The best ex­am­ple I can use is in the last 10 min­utes there were eight scrums, of which seven the tight­head for Italy is purely il­le­gal.

“Up here they’re cry­ing that it should have been a penalty try. It should have been a penalty first scrum to the All Blacks. We’ve got to be fair to teams.

“If the ref­eree is not ac­cu­rate we’ve got to put our hand up. We need to ed­u­cate that ref­eree and get him bet­ter be­cause that scrum­mag­ing on Satur­day was not up to in­ter­na­tional stan­dard.

“You’ve got a young guy [Crock­ett] try­ing to launch his test ca­reer and get things right and the ref­eree is in­ac­cu­rate. Then it’s our prob­lem. We’ve got to deal with the ref, which we will, just like Graham [Henry, the New Zealand coach] deals with a player who is not play­ing well.”

PLAIN WRONG Stu­art Dick­in­son was ac­cused by his boss of hav­ing no idea what was happening at scrum time in Mi­lan, 2009.

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